Professor Alan DeYoung (EPE) will be traveling to the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan during the Spring 2008 semester to conduct research under a United States Department of State-funded project. He will study “Making Market Choices in Higher Education: How Students Choose Universities and Specializations and How Universities Create New Specializations in Contemporary Kyrgyzstan.”
Dr. DeYoung’s research will examine student and parent aspirations and expectations about universities and major subject fields among cohorts of secondary school graduates, entering university students and their parents in northern Kyrgyzstan. He also will investigate and analyze how several state and private universities organized or reorganized their majors in the years following independence from the former USSR.
“Specifically, I want to look at how students choose where they go to school and what they study,” Dr. DeYoung said. “I’ll be working with a couple hundred students, as well as with deans and parents, gathering data via surveys and interviews.”
Dr. DeYoung says his interest in this topic is a result of his earlier research which found skyrocketing demand for higher education by secondary school graduates, even though the national economy has limited employment opportunities. When the new republic was part of the Soviet Union, student enrollment in republican universities was about 14 percent, but since 1991 that figure has increased to about 70 percent.
Interestingly, the surge in demand has come despite education no longer being government funded and despite the fact that most university programs have little direct market utility.
“What makes these universities increasingly desirable when the schools are decreasingly utilitarian?” Dr. DeYoung asked. “The government has provided opportunities for more universities to be created, but the oversight of programs and quality is seemingly very weak. Who decides upon and what are the criteria for evaluating newly created academic specializations?”
Dr. DeYoung’s work is being funded through a Special Initiatives Research Fellowship administered by the American Councils for International Education: ACTRA/ACCELS courtesy of the U.S. Department of State’s Program for the Study of Eastern Europe and the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (Title VIII). While in Kyrgyzstan, Dr. DeYoung also will be attached to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA). He will be a Visiting Fellow in the AUCA Social Research Center.